A doctor, a nurse and three women were convicted yesterday of illegal abortion activity, after the state appealed a 2004 acquittal of charges against the five.
The women were given suspended prison sentences of six months each, reported Lusa News Agency. The nurse was given a 16-month prison sentence, and the doctor will spend three years and eight months in jail. The defendants have 15 days to appeal the sentencing to the Supreme Court.
Abortion is illegal in Catholic Portugal, except for cases of rape or if the mother’s health is seriously endangered. All abortions are illegal after 12 weeks gestation, regardless of the circumstances.
The Socialist government now in power has announced it will introduce a law in September permitting abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. The government had promised to re-open the abortion debate with a 2006 referendum on the issue, but now has said the decision will be left to Parliament.
A 1998 referendum on the issue resulted in a victory for abortion opponents, with a narrow margin of 51% to 49%; but voter turn out was too small for the results to be considered binding.
The Socialists have been pushing for open access to abortion for the past decade, beginning with a 1997 bill to permit unrestricted abortion, which was defeated by just one vote in Parliament. Concerted opposition by the country’s strong pro-life forces has so far prevented any change to the abortion laws.
A petition containing the signatures of 190,000 people opposed to abortion was presented to Parliament in March of 2004, effectively shutting down further debate on the issue at that time. Support for the protection of the unborn appears to be weakening, however a 2005 poll conducted by Marktest suggested 54% of the population, especially among the younger generation, would support legal abortion.
(This article courtesy of LifeSiteNews.com.)